Skip to content

iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI)

The iSchool Public Libraries Initiative (IPLI) is an intellectual home for iSchool faculty and students who are interested in researching public libraries, applying their research to public libraries, or using public library data in their research.

The IPLI supports research with the goal of providing more information to public libraries about what they and their communities need. The Initiative uses existing and original data in its work; drawing on public data about libraries as well as Initiative-originated qualitative and quantitative data to investigate the state of public libraries.

About the Initiative

The iSchool Public Libraries Initiative supports research and generates information, guidance, and reports that inform the conversations occurring in and around public-focused libraries between their staff, administrators, boards of trustees, funders, and community members. The products of the Initiative support decision-making by library administration and the creation of new services. In addition, the Initiative staff (i.e., faculty and students) provide services to the library community, including learning opportunities (e.g., webinars) and consulting activities.

As part of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative allows students to use knowledge gained in the MSLIS program, together with knowledge gained as part of the Initiative, to promote the good that libraries are doing and the innovations they are implementing. Through their work in the Initiative, students become both researchers and reporters.

Here at the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative we...

  • Research the state of public libraries, and their communities, with a focus on information needed by decision-makers and advocates.
  • Compile and disseminate information (what and how) on innovations in libraries. By sharing what is already occurring, the Initiative furthers its goal to spark additional innovations in libraries.
  • Learn how libraries are innovating, and use that knowledge to help other libraries build their capacity to innovate.
  • Apply SU iSchool research (e.g., privacy, use of information technology in marginalized communities) to the public library setting.
  • Develop white papers, trade/scholarly articles, webinars, and presentations for use by the public library community on specific topics related to library innovation.
  • Offer classes/professional development for library staff, administration, and trustees on topics including the collection and use of data to support their activities.


Elia, H (under review) “Health and Wellness Literature Review.” SJSU Student Research Journal.

Elia, H. (forthcoming) “Why Document?” The Political Librarian.

Unrein, S. (May 2019) “What Makes a Good Library Website?” (white paper). Syracuse, NY: iSchool Public Libraries Initiative at Syracuse University.

Hurst-Wahl, J. (Feb. 2019) Working to Give Libraries More Actionable Information - Peer to Peer Review.” Library Journal. MSLIS students and IPLI researchers Heather Elia, Georgia Westbrook, and Sabrina Unrein contributed to the article.

Elia, H. (Nov. 2018) Public Libraries Supporting Health and Wellness. Syracuse University iSchool InfoSpace.


Jian Qin

Heather Elia

Heather Elia is an MSLIS student and graduate research assistant with the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. She is a recipient of the Wilhelm Library Leadership Award (formerly known as the Expect More Scholarship). Heather's current professional interests include public librarianship with a focus on innovation, community outreach, and youth services. Heather blogs at The Adventures of Library Heather and tweets at @heatherelia.

Jian Qin

Sabrina Unrein

Sabrina Unrein is a MLIS student at Syracuse University and a graduate research assistant with the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. Her unique background in web development has informed her perspective on librarianship. Sabrina is particularly interested in the role that technology and the internet will play in the future of libraries, and the ways in which libraries can innovate to strengthen their communities. In addition to public libraries, she is also interested in archives and special collections, and is passionate about books and reading, which she discusses on her YouTube channel. You can find Sabrina on LinkedIn or on Twitter @bookish_sabrina.

Jian Qin

Georgia Westbrook

Georgia Westbrook is an MSLIS student at Syracuse University and a graduate research assistant with the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. Her interests include visual resources, metadata, digital publishing, open access, and privacy issues in libraries. Georgia has a BA in art history from Binghamton University. You can find Georgia on her website or on Linkedin.

Jian Qin

Jill Hurst-Wahl

Jill Hurst-Wahl is an associate professor of practice in Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, where she teaches graduate M.S. Library and Information Science (MSLIS) courses and leads the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. She is a member of the USNY Technology Policy and Practices Council (2009 - ), the Onondaga County Public Library Board of Trustees (12/2016 - ), and the board of the EveryLibrary Institute (2019- ). Jill blogs at


Thank you for your interest in the iSchool Public Libraries Initiative. We are currently seeking research collaborators, SU students interested in research, and future ideas for research; if you fall into one of those categories, please contact us via email.